Grant amnesty to repentant bandits, Zamfara lawmakers tell Buhari

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The Zamfara caucus of the National Assembly has called on the federal government to grant amnesty to repentant bandits in the country.

According to the legislators, comprising three senators and four members of the House of Representatives, this is part of a peace initiative that would allow repentant bandits to voluntarily surrender their arms and ammunition in return for government patronages such as stipends, vocational training and job opportunities.

They said this would bring peace to the affected states and asked President Muhammadu Buhari to take a cue from former President Umaru Yar’Adua who granted amnesty to Niger Delta militants in 2009.

The lawmakers made their demand at a press conference on Wednesday.

Sahabi Yau, who represents Zamfara North in the Senate, led the delegation.

Yau said that when Governor Bello Matawalle, assumed office in 2019, he initiated a peace process with bandits which has helped reduce insecurity in the state.

He added that the state government is currently carrying out the Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) project within different districts of the state with modern facilities that would guarantee all-year-round grazing with nutritious grass, water canals, dams, houses, schools, hospitals and veterinary clinics.

“It is important to state that these and many other interventions have clearly reduced the killings and attacks in the state who hitherto, were daily occurrences. Today, people living in Zamfara State duly appreciate the genuine intentions and determination of the State Governor to ensure enduring peace and the support is heart-warming.

“As we speak, people who had deserted their villages have started returning. Farmers have been returning in droves, the roads are safer today, markets have reopened, and business activities have picked up. Peace is gradually returning to Zamfara, frankly it is important that we commend the approach of Governor Matawalle.”

Peace, the lawmakers said, cannot be achieved by force and one way to do it is to grant amnesty to repentant bandits.

“It is our belief that the Federal Government should offer amnesty to those repentant bandits in the North West region, because we are convinced that these repentant bandits should be encouraged to contribute positively to society. It is evidently clear that peace can also be achieved through understanding and genuine dialogue.

“This conviction comes on the heels of a similar success recorded in the Niger Delta when the late President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua granted amnesty to repentant bandits in that region. Today, the story in that once troubled area is clearly not the same.

“The amnesty worked perfectly by turning the criminal minded into productive elements and they are usefully contributing to society in various fields of endeavour. The attacks on critical infrastructure including oil installations, pipeline vandalism, and abduction of expatriates in the region have drastically reduced courtesy of the amnesty programme.

“This is a testimony that peace cannot only be achieved through the use of excessive force; it is evident that dialogue and genuine commitment of both parties is also a vital tool in tackling insecurity,” Mr Yau said.

He said increase in oil production in the region, provision of scholarship for repentant militants as well as employment are some of the successes of the amnesty programme which can be achieved in the North-west region if the federal government “extends this olive branch to repentant bandits.”

While he called on other states in the North-west to also initiate peace dialogues, the lawmaker emphasised that the request “is not about the personal interest of the Zamfara State Governor or anyone of us here, it is about ridding our region of this vices and making the region safer.”

When asked why he compared the Niger Delta militants to present-day bandits, Mr Yau said the difference between them is that the militants in 2009 were educated when they started their agitation but the bandits are not educated.

“If only they are educated (bandits), the agitation would have been different. It would have been the same with the time the Niger Delta militants did their own. But unfortunately, the best way is to protect themselves and their cattle by starting to fight with sticks which turned to guns,” he replied.

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